Double standards?

Caroline Armstrong writes: Re. ” Want economic reform? Here’s someone who could deliver it” (Friday). Julie Bishop’s stint in the Treasury portfolio in opposition was famously a disaster says Bernard Keane.  This was in 2009.

I understand that women in the LNP are subject to different standards of merit by their male colleagues, but does Crikey also hold them to different standards?  Let’s reflect on the famous stint of Joe Hockey, who is still in charge of the Treasury portfolio. Which has been the disaster?

Money talks

Malcolm Weatherup writes: Re. “Latham makes nice with Markson (no, not that one)” (Thursday). It can hardly be surprising that Max Markson is representing Mark Latham, despite Latham’s constant attacks on his daughter,The Australian newspaper media columnist Sharri. And in a peculiar way, perhaps we have to give Markson credit for a twisted sort of honesty — and consistency — when he says in the single sentence “I love my daughter very much … this is purely a commercial arrangement”.

This throws one into deep contemplation of Mr Markson’s command of English.

But it cannot, as I said, be surprising. This is the bloke who told an ABC Lateline audience in July 1999 that he could not see any problem with the cash for comment arrangements of his client, John Laws.

“There will always be companies prepared to spend millions to change public opinion — this is the market, this is how it works,” he told a bemused audience.

On Gillard and marriage equality

Ailsa Cowan writes: Re. “Gillard changes her mind” (Friday). Like Jenny Thomas, I also take issue with your attack on Julia Gillard over her previous stance on same-sex marriage. The assertion that “ …  if she really was ideologically opposed to all marriage, why didn’t she move to abolish it?” is a very hollow argument.  Are you seriously suggesting that a logical action for a prime minister would be to try to dismantle the whole institution of marriage because it did not fit with her personal beliefs?

What is happening in Kurdistan 

Luke Godwin writes: Re. “Rundle: Abbott should back the Kurds and their ranks of foreign fighters” (Thursday). You asked what would happen if there is no clear cut result in the next Turkish election. Erdogan has just published a statement in which he observes that the shift to presidential executive government has already taken place, whether people like it or not.  He went on to note that all that is now required is for the constitution to catch up with the new reality. He has made it clear he does not favour resolution by way of a coalition in event the election does not provide him the majority he seeks.  While I am sure he hopes for the majority that would deliver him the outcome he desires, this seems increasingly unlikely.  So he may look to other ways to do this.  As of last Monday, he has shown he is not too worried about constitutional niceties.  One way might be for him to hand-pick members of parliament and so guarantee a vote – this would give him the fig leaf of legality.  There are others.

The army is now on a full-scale war footing with Erdogan proclaiming an end to all negotiations with PKK. He has stated that it will be a fight to the death until no terrorists (a term that, worryingly, is now getting an increasingly wider definition) are left in Turkey.  Quite how this aligns with bombing in Iraq is unclear.  The question of how they got ISIS to release 49 Turkish diplomats last year also remains wanting an answer. Erdogan has made it very clear that he regards the Assad regime (composed of Shias) as a bigger problem than ISIS. He wants regime change – but to who is very uncertain. ISIS are fellow Sunnis, by the way, who also want a caliphate – Erdogan is a very conservative Islamist and has previously made comments that if you have a good sultan the quality of any laws count for little. No prize for guessing who might be the sultan.

At this stage, America remains less than silent – praising the Turks for their steadfast commitment to the war against ISIS.  Erdogan banks this as the useful currency it is while not having to do very much other than deal with his real problem: the Kurds.  As I noted previously, curiously, actions to date somewhat belie the strength of Turk commitment.  Turkey is yet to drop a bomb on ISIS while the Kurdish body count from Turkish attacks rises steeply: an element of the only ground force capable of dealing with ISIS is copping a daily pounding from one of our ‘allies’ in the campaign.  Rather than get Turkey to bomb ISIS, America might ask them not to blow the shit out of friends – that would be an advance.  At this stage, Turkey is the best weapon ISIS have to defeat a real threat.  (As an aside, on basis of very short life-span for recent recruits who went to Syria by way of Turkey to join the fight against the terrorists, my advice would be: in future, get there any other way you can).

This mashing of the Kurds is also playing well internally to ultra-nationalists in Turkey at the moment, spurred along by ‘terrorist’ incidents involving attacks on Police and military.  Units of the military could easily be deployed to ‘protect’ key installations, ensure stability and prevent ‘unrest’.  Lists of intellectuals and journalists who might offer some criticism apparently have been compiled and circulated – some journalists have already been advised they are considered ‘persona non grata’.  Various agencies have been delegated roles to ‘manage’ them.  (Turkey already has the world’s highest rate of incarceration for journalists).  In public statements Erdogan has started referring to sections of the media and to others (including the moderate Kurdish party – HDP) as aiding terrorists. It may only be a gratifyingly short step to discover you were right and that they actually are terrorists themselves! (Those books I read on Stalin must also have been translated into Turkish – but I read them out of interest rather than as how-to manual).

There is a certain academic interest in watching the chess game being played towards consolidated rule in Turkey (there is another word for it). One can trace this back at least 7 years with moves to neuter the military as a political arbiter by jailing its senior generals on what were widely considered trumped up charges, then the police and judiciary were brought to heel, moves to consolidate power in one person – cheered on and aided by his stooges in parliament.  The megalomania, but forethought, evident in the huge presidential palace he had built in anticipation of his move to that position.  It is, on the other hand, worrying to see how quickly and easily and transparently the apparently robust and vaunted Turkish democratic state can be dismantled.  The opposition is divided and pretty useless except for the Kurdish party – and he has a plan for them. There are those in the AKP (Erdogan’s own party) who are somewhat apprehensive about his moves but either they are caught in the headlights or do not want to appear disloyal while there is an election to win.  There also are plenty who smell the main chance with careers and fortunes to be made – and the others might do well to understand how disposable they may be as and when.

Interestingly, some expats have stated to me: so what, it will have little effect on us, we will keep living the dream.  Unbelievable attitude.   And, in my estimation, perhaps wrong if it all goes in Erdogan’s direction.  He has demonstrated scant regard for the rights and beliefs of others and a worryingly well-developed capacity to operate with great dexterity and as an absolute political pragmatist.  It was only a short time ago that the now-demonised Kurds were a very welcome part of his government and nothing was too much trouble to keep them on-side. Not too hard to see foreigners serving as a useful whipping boy for Turkey’s now readily-apparent economic woes: inflation at four times the rate of Europe, their currency having slipped 29% in value in the last eight months, increasing problems in securing the 200 billion (or 25% of all investment) from foreign sources required annually to keep it all going.  And easily done when you control the media and the message. And why not if tourism crashes (down 5% this year alone because of political and security developments) and you are something of a pariah state in any case.

I really hope I am way off target.  Perhaps I am enjoying an overly paranoid dream. But, if so, I am anxious to wake up.

Peter Fray

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